So I’m currently looking into growing another head and two more pairs of arms, in light of the guidance that has today been released by the government regarding the 4th of July opening of pubs and restaurants.
We’re a small pub. We have one person on shift at a time. On occasion, we’ll have a spare pair of hands for a couple of hours on a Friday or Saturday night. Ahead of the actual guidance for businesses being published later today, we’ve been confronted with the fact that for indoor service, we’ll be confined to table service only, and required to collect personal data from our customers on arrival. This might not seem like a lot at first glance, but for pubs like ours, it’s almost impossible to put into place while maintaining any sort of speed of service, or keeping the wage bill reasonable. We are all committed to keeping people safe, but if the only way to do that is with hugely prohibitive conditions, maybe it’s not time to open up the pubs yet. The problem is that many businesses face the option of either opening or going under. I’d be much happier if we’d all received adequate support to be able to stay closed until things were safer.
The problem with these conditions is that it basically means going to a full restaurant model. You need a host, greeting people at the door, advising them on table availability, seating them and taking their contact details – which need to be recorded and stored in a privacy compliant way. You need floor staff circulating – in how many places can you see every table from the bar? – or you need an app, which alienates a huge proportion of your clientele who may for one reason or another find it difficult to access that technology, and is another cost for struggling businesses to bear – and then you need a service bartender, preparing the orders so they can be delivered by the floor staff. Great. This set up might be implementable in big restaurants or chain pubs like Wetherspoons, but I just can’t see it working in many traditional pubs.
We’ll all be struggling enough with wage bill as it is, considering that take is going to be down with a hugely diminished customer capacity, yet I’m expected to bring in more staff every shift. Like many businesses, we did not manage to access the furlough money. We’ve been working our arses off doing off-sales, just to make enough money to pay our suppliers, and our staff who have been at home during lockdown. We’ve continued to be a focal point in our local community for people who rely on having that social contact, in albeit a distanced and limited way. We have continued to support our local breweries, who of course have had their own set of difficulties to contend with.
Because it’s all about the people, and about our community. That’s why we’re all in this industry really, isn’t it? We care about people, even if they can be terrible quite a lot of the time. Beer, at its most basic root, has always been about connection, and about humanity. So as an industry I know that we’ll find a way, and we’ll keep on, and we’ll be here for as long as we can, supporting each other. Because that’s what we do.
I know a lot of people in this industry have been struggling with mental health at this time. Obviously globally we’re all going through it, but in this industry especially we’re facing challenges that none of us ever expected, and for a lot of us it can be difficult to keep smiling when our livelihoods are in such a fragile place. But we’re a lot better at talking about this than we used to be. Keep talking, keep going, keep checking in with your mates. Stay safe. Cheers.
Edit: Twelve hours after the announcement, full guidelines were finally published. The overarching feeling seems to be positive, as they provide enough flexibility to work safely in a way which suits smaller, older venues. However, some are concerned that the 1 metre + safety mitigations are very much being left up to individual venues based on their risk assessments. I’m looking forward to gradually re-opening in a safe way that suits our site and protects our staff and customers.